Western Springs’ Alia Abiad made her hometown proud by reaching the top five in the Scripps National Spelling Bee championship finals Thursday evening.
The bee was beamed live from suburban Washington, D.C. on ESPN. All of Western Springs held its collective breath, as Alia, 14, made it to the eleventh round correctly spelling “quebrada,” “collyrium,” “buñuelo” and “brindisi.”
She stumbled on the word “irbis” -- the Russian word for snow leopard -- spelling it “erbiz.” It was also the shortest word missed by a Scripps finalist.
The national spelling bee ended in a tie for the first time in 28 years. New Yorker Sriram Hathwar, 14, and Texan Ansun Sujoe, 13, both got to hoist the Scripps trophy at the end of the evening.
Alia showed tremendous grace under pressure in the glare of the lights and cameras. Alia told USA Today that she couldn’t believe she had made the championship round.
“I’m in shock,” she said. “[The best part] is meeting all the great spellers. Seeing all my hard work pay off is amazing.”
The sunny eighth-grader from McClure Junior High School walked off with $2,500 and the satisfaction of knowing that she rose from 19th place in last year's national spelling bee to becoming one of the top five spellers in the country.
Alia definitely deserves a “brindisi” -- an Italian word deriving from an old German phrase, often used in opera to introduce a toast.